That’s my toddler greeting me as I join her at the bottom of the slide at our local soft play. Not quite sure when she mastered condescension to such an expert level but she’s not entirely wrong to be surprised. It was just a few short months ago that I tried sliding down the big slide at the park and, well… there was no sliding to be had. I’d like to think it was the fact that the slide is notoriously slow but I suspect it had more to do with the width of my backside…..
Anyway, having successfully avoided soft plays for almost two years I now find myself visiting one (with the kid obvs) once a week. A few weeks ago we went to four different ones in the space of one week – Aba-Aba was away, the weather was miserable and we needed to entertain ourselves. I used to think soft plays were the 7th circle of hell, and depending on the day and the place they still can be, but it’s worth taking the risk when you’re guaranteed the kid is going to have a good time just with the presence of a big slide. Besides we’ve both been on a bit of a learning curve.
The kid has started to attempt to make friends with other kids. She used to select the point furthest away from other human beings her size and play there but now she waves at those that venture into her “play space.” The other day she even said hello. The other kid ignored her and ran away which prompted my kid to run after her yelling “Come back! Hello!”
All this attempting conversation has also meant that she’s come face to face with injustice. Up until last week she didn’t really care when another kid swiped a toy away. This time, a kid took a balloon right out of her hands and she was having none of it. She screamed “Mama!” and I found her glaring at the thief. She went to go snatch the balloon back but I told her not to, that that was unnecessary and we’d find another balloon. She stayed where she was, held my gaze but her expression basically read: ” I’m going to do as you say (this time) Mama but I think you’re out of your tree!”
As her speech has moved into phrase and sentence territory, her favourite by far is “do by y’self?” That gets applied to all sorts of situations but the most memorable so far was at the top of a huge slide, one that had a big sign that said toddlers need to slide on a mat with an adult. Have you ever tried to go down a slide with a toddler that decided at the top that she wants to “do by y’self,” screams said phrase over and over whilst also trying to fling herself out of your arms and into the next slide lane and simultaneously you’re trying to keep control of the mat so you can both get in it before it goes down the slide without you? I don’t recommend it. But that incident taught us about choices. You can choose to play in the under 3s play area or you can slide with me. She stuck to the play area…..
Another phrase she’s learnt, unfortunately for me, is “Mama come with me?” I see other parents, sitting at the adjacent tables enjoying a cup of coffee whilst their kids play in the play frame. How marvellous for them. Maybe one day that’ll be me…. But looking at the bright side soft play is rapidly becoming my preferred method of exercise. Who am I kidding? It’s now my only form of exercise. The clambering, climbing and squatting (so you don’t hit your head)… all good stuff…. and the small spaces. Wow, you just have to love the small spaces! The quick assessments you have to make to ascertain whether you’ll make it to the other side. Keeps your mind sharp… I never thought being afraid of having to be extracted from play gym equipment could be a legitimate fear, but it most certainly is.